Presented on Wednesday, May 8, 2019 in the Barn at Quarry Farm as part of the 2019 "Trouble Begins" lecture series.
After a relatively free-wheeling period in his life in the American West, Mark Twain courted and married a genteel young woman from a prominent Elmira family, and he became the paterfamilias of a thoroughly Victorian family of his own. His major published works were deemed suitable for young men and young women alike, and he raised his three daughters in a strictly Victorian, protected, and proper mode. Nevertheless, when speaking before all-mail groups, or writing privately, he addressed sexual topics with frankness suffused with humor. Later in his life, in work not intended for publication, he let loose with explicit sexual references and frank talk about both male and female sexuality. This talk will examine a range of the works in which sexuality plays a major role, the language and metaphors he used to express sexual topics, and the sometimes surprising attitudes the work reveals.
Linda A. Morris is Professor Emeritus, University of California, Davis. She has written extensively about women's humor in the 19th and 20th century America, including a book-length study on the writer Miriam Whitcher ("The Widow Bedott"), and essays on Mary Lasswell and Roz Chast. Her work on Mark Twain includes her book Gender Play in Mark Twain: Cross-Dressing and Transgressions, and essays on Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc, and "Gender Bending as Child's Play, Aunt Susy Phelps in Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and "Hellfire Hotchkiss." She was the 2017 recipient of "The Olivia Langdon Clemens Award" by the Mark Twain Circle of America, and the 2018 recipient of "The Charlie Award" by the American Humor Studies Association.